Amuneke and the Jinx of U20 – Confident He will Succeed where Others Failed?

It was functional, it was unspectacular, and it was settled by a second-half strike from defensive midfielder Chukwudi Agor. In many ways, the Flying Eagles' 1-0 win away in Burundi was an apt way to kick off qualification for next year's Caf U20 Nations Cup.

Populated by members of the U17 side that dominated the World Cup in Chile last year, it served as the perfect baptism into what is a whole new level of football.

Nigeria has struggled notoriously with the transition from U17 to U20: five World Cup wins at the former level have often been followed by great disappointment at the latter.

The onus to break this cycle rests on Emmanuel Amuneke this time, and if he must, then there is wisdom in learning from the failure of his immediate predecessor in the role, Manu Garba.

 Both moved up to U20 level following World Cup wins, and while the set of Victor Osimhen and Kelechi Nwakali were mightily impressive, Manu had at his disposal an even greater embarrassment of talent.

Kelechi Iheanacho, lately rippling Premier League nets in Manchester blue, was the headline act, but the supporting cast was equally stellar: Taiwo Awoniyi has since been snapped up by Liverpool; Success Isaac is a handful for La Liga defences with Granada; the likes of Musa Yahaya, Musa Muhammed and Dele Alampasu were also highly-rated.

What followed instead was further heartbreak, as Nigeria were made to look abundantly ordinary against Germany in the round of 16 in New Zealand. The performances of the team called into question Manu's tactical nous, and while there was sufficient cause to raise this concern, there was a rather more obvious problem: a lack of continuity.

Amuneke’s confidence to succeed where others failed is not only by saying, but to learn wisdom from the failure of Manu Garba.

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